The Advice Dorset Partnership covers the geographical county of Dorset, and is circulated every fortnight, to bring you news and information relating to the advice sector in Dorset and Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole. The Partnership is supported by Citizens Advice in Dorset (CAiD). 

The Advice Dorset Partnership E news is published fortnightly on a Thursday, BUT if there is something urgent in-between we will send out a short supplementary edition. NB: as Caroline is on leave, issue number 13 will come out on 23 September.

As usual feel free to forward this email to  colleagues and  they can get in touch with us if they wish to go on the list.  If you would like to send anything out via the bulletin,  and for all other enquiries about the Advice Dorset Partnership, contact Caroline Buxton on her Citizens Advice Central Dorset email:  mailto:caroline.buxton@centralca.org.uk

You can view previous editions of the E news HERE.

Jobs

No listings this week

Information updates

September Fact Sheet:

Covid updates

Govt Roadmap – moving to step 4 – updated 27 August 2021, although the last significant changes were 16 August. It also says: In September, the Government will undertake a review to assess the country’s preparedness for autumn and winter, which will consider whether to continue or strengthen public and business guidance as we approach the winter, including on face coverings and test, trace and isolate, and will review the remaining regulations. The updated rules for travelling to red – amber – green list countries are here.

STOP PRESS – Afghan crisis: Home office guidance on the support available for British and non-British nationals needing help to leave the country is here and information on the Afghan Resettlement Scheme is here, although this is not yet open – the information at this link will be updated regularly. Both local authorities are planning support under their refugee resettlement schemes, with one of the most pressing issues being to secure private rented accommodation – read their announcements here:

BENEFITS

UC Uplift ending: Despite representations by a number of agencies and some MPs the end of the £20/week uplift will take effect during October, and is likely to have a severe impact on many people and households. The Govt’s August publication for local authorities – LA Welfare Direct – covers this and other topics including recent UC statistics. Claimants affected should be encouraged to get a a full benefit check to ensure they are getting the correct amounts, and to see if there are other options such as reducing the rates of any deductions or repayments.

UC and ‘early’ wage payments: Universal Credit now has a new automatic process to ensure claimants receive more consistent benefit payments, even if their employer pays them early because of a bank holiday. The UC system now automatically identifies claimants who receive a second monthly salary payment in one benefit assessment period. Staff will be able to move the second payment forward to the next assessment period in the system, ensuring the claimant’s benefits don’t fluctuate from one month to the next due to the system thinking a claimant has received increased wages in one month. If a client is concerned that their case will not be caught, they can still give notice to their work coach, just in case. Govt overview info is here.

UC ‘Trust and protect’: More evidence is coming in of problems for people being asked by the DWP to retrospectively verify their ID for UC claims made in 2020. If evidence is not provided, claims can be closed, and an overpayment claimed, dating back to the start of the claim. It is unclear what legal basis the DWP are using, particularly to close the claim from the date of claim rather than date of decision.

In the first instance clients should try to comply with the requirements, and if they are unable to comply, they should ask the DWP if there is an alternative solution, such as attending a face to face appointment at the jobcentre to prove their identity. If this is not possible then they should challenge any negative decisions with a mandatory reconsideration, asking what legal basis the DWP are using. There is an interesting Discussion Forum on this topic on rightsnet.

Bereavement benefits and cohabiting partners: The govt intends to change the rules so that entitlement to Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payments will be extended to surviving cohabiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death. Whilst we await the required Remedial Order (RO), the advice is for anyone affected to still make a claim and then submit a mandatory reconsideration or appeal in order to protect their rights in case the RO changes or is delayed.

EMPLOYMENT

Employers – right to work checks: Updated guidance advises an employer how to conduct a right to work check and sets out the specific actions they can take to prevent liability for a civil penalty. The guidance applies to right to work checks conducted on or after 31 August 2021; video checks and acceptance of scanned documents or photos rather than originals can continue. Employers can use the govt’s on-line checking service – here.

ENERGY – LOCAL NEWS

LEAP – Local Energy Advice Partnership – returns: Ridgewater Energy are commencing advice calls, followed with home visits (where deemed necessary) – available throughout the whole of Dorset. This scheme can assist residents with free energy advice, energy saving devices, along with access to other improvements like heating upgrades and insulation. Eligibility is based on low income, and/or health issues, and/or energy efficiency rating – for full details and online referral go to Ridgewater Energy.

Events

Dorset Community Action have a range of free and low cost events, all on their eventbrite webpage, including a free support webinar on Wednesday 8 September.

Research, reports, blogs etc

HMRC – excuses for not paying the National Minimum Wage (NMW): In this recent press release, HMRC notes that whilst the vast majority of employers pay their employees at least the NMW, there are some ‘absurd excuses’ used for not paying the legal minimum, including: .

“She does not deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.” and “The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage,” and “My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they are actually serving someone.”

Read more here ,and for anyone who wants to (and can risk….?) complaining, go to the govt information on how to do so here.

TUC report: New ONS figures published on 21 August 2021 reveal that the unemployment rate for BME workers has risen at three times the speed of the rate for white workers. They also note that 917,000 people are still on zero hours contracts, and call for extending the furlough scheme ‘for as long as needed to protect jobs and livelihoods’. Read more here.

Defra – Statistical Digest of Rural England: This report from August 2021 is a collection of statistics on a range of social and economic subject areas. The statistics are split by rural and urban areas, allowing for comparisons between the different rural and urban area classifications. Although this is generally high level data, presenting an overview for England, there could be useful things here if you are reviewing your community profile or writing a funding application. Read more here.

Govt – Access to Cash consultation – closes 23 September: This consultation is the next step in legislating to protect access to cash and ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable for the long term. Despite the decline in cash use over recent years, cash remains an important payment method for millions across the UK. The March 2020 Budget included a commitment to legislate to protect access to cash, and the Financial Services Act 2021 included facilitating the wide-spread adoption of cashback without a purchase. This consultation sets out proposals for further legislation. It seeks views on: establishing geographic requirements for the provision of cash withdrawal and deposit facilities, the designation of firms for meeting these requirements, and establishing further regulatory oversight of cash service provision. Read more here.

Financial quicksand is popping up everywhere:. This Citizens Advice blog reports on a worrying trend emerging across markets — online spending that’s easy to slip into but difficult to get out of. This ‘financial quicksand’ doesn’t emerge by accident, it’s a deliberate design feature. Increasingly, risky or long term spending commitments are being presented to us when we’re online in autopilot mode. For example, you might not go looking for a credit agreement but come across buy now pay later at the checkout when you’re shopping online….read more here.

CPAG – Holes in the safety net – benefit claimant deaths: This article reviews DWP changes to improve decision-making and safeguarding following several high profile deaths and suicides. Read more here.

Funding news

Don’t forget: The NHS Charities Together – COVID-19 Community Partnership Grants open on 6 September (closing 15 October). Grants of up to £4,000. Applications must meet three essential criteria:

  • Results in measurable improvement in health outcomes for communities adversely affected by Covid-19
  • Involves a partnership or relationship with NHS practitioners who will be able to endorse your group and describe how the work directly supports the NHS by delivering support to residents in the community
  • Leads to a direct, positive impact on the NHS whilst it responds to the Covid-19 pandemic

Read more on the Dorset Community Foundation website.

Wessex Water Community Fund: Opens on 13 September. Grants of up to £3,000 available to groups in Dorset and Ringwood to support charitable and community activities which aim to strengthen communities by addressing local needs and issues, and improve the lives of local people, especially those who are in the most need of support. Grants are targeted at organisations where a small amount of money can make a significant difference. They particularly welcome applications from BAME groups. Priority will be given to work that:

  • Supports people in financial difficulty or those who lack access to services
  • Takes place in areas of multiple deprivation or rural isolation
  • Helps build stronger, more resilient communities
  • Helps people manage or avoid debt, including raising awareness and take up of utility affordability support, such as the Wessex Water schemes, among those who need it most
  • Educates and supports people of all ages to take steps to build financial capability, money management and household budgeting skills.

Also administered by DCF – read more here.

Thomas Wall Trust: Their current focus is on proposals that provide communication skills to disadvantaged people aged 18 years or older to increase their prospects of employment. UK charities that have an annual turnover that does not exceed £500,000 can apply for grants of up to £5,000. The Trust will support annual repeat funding for up to three years.

Proposals are particularly welcome which target people experiencing multiple deprivation or other groups demonstrably facing major hurdles to employment, such as women, people with physical, mental, or learning disabilities, refugees and asylum seekers.

Stage 1 is an online expression of interest; read more here.